Entertaining In The Evening Garden

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An evening garden is an entirely different place from that same garden in the light of day. The lighting, wildlife, and even plants behave differently, the air is different, and, most importantly, you are a different person in the evening garden than you are during the day. Most of us plan our gardens in the daylight for the daylight, yet so often it is in the evening garden that we take the time to relax and enjoy or entertain. With just a little forethought in your plantings, you can make a garden that will be just as beautiful and enjoyable in the evening as during the day.

Lighting

The first thing to consider when planting for the evening garden is lighting. Whether you will be using artificial lights, torches, or just the fading sun, moon, and stars to light your garden in the evening, you’ll want to use high-contrast plantings to ensure that they’ll be visible. Dark flowers and foliage will all tend to fade together in the dark, which will give you just a mass of plant to look at. Dark colors are great, but you’ll want to have some bright points to draw the eye and break up the view. White or pale flowers that act only as accents in the day can really come to the fore at night, glowing brightly in the moonlight or throwing back the reds and yellows of torchlight (be sure to choose at least some flowers that remain open at night; try Calla Lilies, Impatiens, or Petunias). Bright and dark foliage can add to the nighttime contrast, too. Choose some plants with very pale or even variegated foliage to add nighttime interest. Hostas are some of the very best plants for this purpose, and Dusty Miller and Sage reflect light beautifully.

Ambiance

The second thing to consider is yourself. In the evening the way you perceive the world around you is much different. Your eyes relax (especially after a long day of staring at a computer screen), and you start to depend on your other senses more. Use this to your advantage when designing your garden, and plant fragrant flowers for a different sort of garden aesthetic. Some of the standards for soothing evening fragrance are Heliotrope and Lavender, but there are many other herbs and flowers that produce heavenly evening perfume. Smell around and choose what suits your tastes. Your ears, too, can use stimulating in the evening. Some plants, like switch grass, can make beautiful sounds in the evening, and the light splashing of a water feature make for great, soothing atmosphere.

Freshen Up

There are a few things you can do to keep your garden as pleasant as possible for evening entertaining. If you have plants that tend to wilt in the evening, mist them lightly with water before your guests arrive; this will raise the humidity around the plant and stop transpiration, allowing the plant to pull water from the soil more quickly to refresh it. A little maintenance can minimize mosquitoes, too. Do the best you can to keep water from standing long in your landscape by using filters or fish to rid your water features of mosquito eggs, and be sure to empty your birdbaths every couple of days. Bat boxes are some of the absolute best solutions to mosquito problems, as the little creatures eat huge amounts of bugs (bonus: no chemicals!). Also, try to avoid watering much in the evening; the damp soil can raise the humidity in the evening garden, and nobody likes walking on squishy wet soil in the dark.

Very few of us plan our garden for evening beauty, and just a little extra consideration can make for an amazing experience for you and your guests. Plan your garden for all times of day and night, and you’ll impress your visitors and give yourself the perfect place to relax after a long day.

Thomas Andrews is a garden writer for the Park Seed Company and the Park Seed Garden Journal. In a span of three generations, Park Seed Co. has grown from a one page list of seeds handed out to neighbors and friends to the largest family-owned direct-marketing horticulture company in the U.S. Park Seed offers gardeners, through its catalogs and corresponding web sites, thousands of choice seeds, plants, bulbs, and gardening aids.

Source: Thomas Andrews

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